The gravestones stand about awkwardly, some leaning off to one side, others sinking into the depths of the earth and grass.
The Aquarius moon is wearing a mysterious veil of clouds, which glow in shades of fluorescent blue and silver.
We couldn’t see much further than the light that our candles revealed, though we could still make out the profiles of a hundred more gravestones in the distance, and the silhouettes of the ancient trees that stand watch over the dead in a reverent silence.
“Don’t read it,” Frieda whispers as she places her post-it note over the candle flame. “It’s private.” The flames lap at the pencil scribbles and yellow paper, before taking hold and consuming Frieda’s fears and self-perceived shortcomings with apparent relish.
Sarah, Anna and I also have our undesirables written out on sacrificial post-it notes, and in turn we place them over the candle and watching the fire’s hypnotic destruction of our problems.
“Wow,” Anna murmurs, as the relics of her crumpled paper make jagged designs that glow red and orange in the darkness. “It’s so beautiful.”
We sit in silence, willing ourselves to let go of all that is no longer serving us, and hoping the universe will swoop in to recycle the debris of our lives and carry it to another galaxy far far away.
We had made our way to the graveyard earlier that night, after gathering up the paraphernalia for our full moon ceremony. This consisted of bits of sage, mugwort and chaga, herbs and spices from the kitchen, an abalone shell, sweetgrass, cedar, candles, and, of course, post-it notes.
Frieda had instigated the ceremony, feeling a great need for releasing the bad juju she was experiencing and opening her life up to receiving healing. And although I am 40 pounds heavier with baby, big boobs and amniotic fluid, I wasn’t going to miss sitting in a graveyard under the full moon with three other venturesome gals.
After all of our notes were burned to ash, we place a protective circle of sage smoke around us and begin to set intentions.
“I’m going to write a book by November 2016.”
“I’m going to ask for more respect from the men in my life.”
“I’m going to open myself up to giving and receiving love.”
The bowls of spices and herbs are brought forward now, to aid in the power of our intentions.
“Ok,” Sarah says, passing a basil leaf to each of us. “I’m going to read about basil for each nibble that we take of these leaves.”
We each take a bite, and the aroma of basil fills our mouths and noses.
“Basil helps steady the mind,” Sarah reads. “It brings happiness,” we take another nibble, “love, peace and money,” we put the last piece in our mouths, “and protects against insecurity.”
“Now we have a lemon,” she announces. “I will pass this wedge around and we can each take a lick.”
I start to giggle.
“Or we can just squeeze some juice into this lid and pass that around,” Frieda suggests.
“Or that,” Sarah agrees, beginning to giggle as well.
Anna takes the lid of sour juice and dips her finger in. “Mmmmm…” she smiles broadly, and starts to pass the lid to me.
“Wait!” Sarah says, glaring at her affectionately. “I didn’t even tell you what it’s good for yet!”
Anna shrugs and laughs. “Oh, whoops.”
“Lemons resonate with the energy of the moon,” Sarah reads.
I take a sip from the lid and most of it spills on my leg.
“Lemon flowers are used in love spells.”
I rub the spilled juice into my skin. The more the better, I guess. I pass the lid to Frieda.
“The fruit can be used to turn away harmful spells or the evil eye.”
Next it’s cloves, than coffee grinds, a clove of garlic. We are filled with visions and hopes of vampire protection, true love, healing, completion, good luck and the cessation of gossip.
“My baby is going to be experiencing some well-seasoned amniotic fluid,” I say, as I take a tentative lick of cayenne powder off the tip of my finger.
“Cayenne is a good one to finish with,” Sarah tells us, “because it speeds up the effect of any mixture to which it’s added.”
And, according to Witchipedia, it also curbs drunkenness. I wonder if a certain relative of mine would notice if I slipped some cayenne powder into their glass of wine?
I feel the baby squirm and give a kick, and wonder if all of the smells and tastes have sent her on an embryonic psychedelic trip yet.
Now we look around at one another. “So how should we end the ceremony?”
“We could get naked and dance around in the moonlight for a few minutes,” I suggest.
We soon find ourselves dancing around the candles (still clothed), jerking and lurching awkwardly without any outside musical tempo to guide or unify us.
“We could twerk in the moonlight,” Anna suggests.
“What’s twerking again?” I ask.
She sticks her butt up in the air, bracing herself by placing her hands on the ground in front of her, and begins to artfully wiggle her hindquarters. As we all attempt to emulate her, I suddenly notice a dark figure walking through the graveyard, making a beeline for us through the spaces between gravestones.
Frieda turns to see the mysterious figure and gasps. “Oh no!”
Anna had taken hold of a headstone to better balance herself for further twerking demonstrations.
“Anna,” Sarah hisses, indicating that we have company. Anna quickly straightens up.
As the man draws nearer, we can see he is dressed all in black, with a distinctively shaped hat. No ones says it, but we’re all thinking it: ‘Cop’.
“Hello,” the officer greets us. “What are you ladies up to?”
“Oh,” Freida says, beginning to scoop up some of our things that are scattered about in the grass. “We were doing a full moon ritual, just to get rid of some things in our lives and set some intentions.”
“Ah,” he says.
“Yeah we were making some spells with these different herbs and spices,” Sarah explains.
“But it’s all safe, just things you’d find around the kitchen,” Frieda quickly adds.
He shines the light down on a bowl of coffee grounds topped with a nibbled chunk of garlic and a squeezed out lemon wedge. “I see. And what’s that? Post-it notes?”
“We were writing things down and burning them.”
“That’s cool,” he says.
The officer seems relived that we are an innocent group of women, toting culinary ingredients into a graveyard and dancing around our candles, rather than ill mannered drunks whom he might have had to arrest. It feels like we could invite him to turn his flashlight off, take a seat and write a few things he wants to release on a post-it note and maybe suck on a lemon wedge… but then he mentions his supervisor and asks for our names and addresses.
After he writes down our information and while we pack up our bags and blankets he tells us, “Well it sure is nice to find you ladies here enjoying yourselves during such dark times… and I’m not talking about the fact that it’s night right now.”
We murmured our sympathy, only needing to imagine the kinds of things he must have to witness as part of his job.
We let him escort us out of the graveyard, and bid him good night. I wonder if this night will be permanently on my record: “8/19/16 Jahnavi Newsom discovered in a graveyard at 11:30 pm, partaking in some sot of moonlit witchcraft voodoo, evidently twerking amongst the headstones.”
Anna was thrilled. “My mom is going to crack up when I tell her I followed in her footsteps!”
Apparently Anna’s mother had been discovered with friends in this very graveyard, but perhaps a few decades ago. They had been drinking, so when they saw the cops approaching they decided to try and ‘play dead’, seeing as how they were in a graveyard anyways, surrounded by other dead people. But the policemen who discovered their bodies that night were not the gullible type.
We stand in Frieda’s driveway, saying goodnight to one another. “Thanks guys, that was great.”
“You ladies are awesome.”
“Bet that cop will never forget us!”